Movies and television have evolved over the years, finally giving audiences more diversity and equality in the entertainment they enjoy. For a long time, only non-Black actors and actresses could play important roles, with Black people being supporting roles or suppressed to stereotypical roles. Fortunately, Black women are no longer subjected to these certain roles, now playing leading, positive, historic, and even heroic characters. Because of this, Black women are now getting to see deserved and historic wins at big-time award shows such as the Emmys. Black artists now have more inspiration and proof that they can follow our dreams. 

However, that doesn’t mean Black women receive the recognition they deserve for their groundbreaking work, often being overshadowed by their non-Black peers. This sad truth makes each time an onscreen artist is awarded for their craft a historic moment. At this year’s Emmy Awards, many Black actresses shined and made history, proving Black women are trailblazing and carrying the torch of Black actresses that came before them, reshaping their future in media. 

Brunson and Edebiri Take the Gold

Quinta Brunson made history with a historic win in a category that has eluded Black women for years. Ayo Edebiri also took home a historic win for the night. Edebiri, a young and up-and-coming actress who has been shining in roles this past year such as Bottoms and Abbott Elementary, won her first Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Sydney Adamu in The Bear. The Bear actress scored her third award of the 2024 awards season. 

Following Edebiri’s win, Brunson won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Abbott Elementary, where she is also the show’s creator. Both women made their mark by becoming the second (Brunson) and third (Edebri) Black women to ever win Emmys in these categories. The last time a Black woman won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award was in 1981. They have changed the game for aspiring Black actresses. 

Both actresses had beautiful speeches to accompany their wins with Edebiri mentioning, “It’s probably not, like a dream to immigrate to the country and have your child be like, ‘I want to do improv!,’ but you’re real ones.” While comedic, the shoutout was a heartwarming testament to how her Barbadian mother and Nigerian father believed in her dreams. 

Brunson highlighted the importance of her award with the tearful testament, “I am so happy to be able to live my dream and act out comedy.” Comedy has never been a popular category for black actresses as they are overlooked more than they are awarded, These wins shine a light on the diverse pool of talented comedians rising in the entertainment industry. 

A Win For the LGBTQ+ Community

While Edebiri is also known for her LGBTQ+ representation in last year’s film Bottoms (2023), another big name in the LGBTQ+ community took the stage to accept an award. T. S. Madison accepted the award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program on behalf of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While this win is monumental for entertainers in the LGBTQ+ community, T.S. Madison’s acceptance of the award drew attention to how Black transgender women have been long overdue recognition in the industry. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race has always drawn heavily from ballroom culture, a staple in Black drag and transgender communities. Because of this, it is significant that someone who has made a name for themself in media while proudly representing Black women received it. While a part of the judges panel for the show, T.S. Madison is also known for her roles in The T.S. Madison Experience and Zola. 

Creating New History

Another LGBTQ+ icon, Niecy Nash-Betts, took home the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for her role as Glenda Cleveland in Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. The Netflix series was surrounded in controversy and heavily debated when released in 2022. Despite the controversy, Nash-Betts’ brilliant acting, a testament to her accomplished career in movies like the Reno 911! series, shone through.

Nash-Betts had one of the most inspirational speeches of the night, thanking herself for believing in what she could do. However, it was the ending of her speech that touched the most hearts, with her proudly stating, “Finally, I accept this award on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet overpoliced, like Glenda Cleveland, like Sandra Bland, like Breonna Taylor. As an artist, my job is to speak truth to power, and baby, I’m gonna do it until the day I die. Mama, I won!” 

The words were a perfect emphasis on the social struggles actors and actresses present on screen, with Black women portraying their battles with society and equality. Actresses like Niecy shine a light on things people may want to turn away from but make up a big part of history. 

It Only Gets Better From Here

Nash-Betts, Edebiri, Madison, and Brunson’s wins made for another progressive year not only for Black actresses, but all Black women who strive to make a name for themselves in media. With talent outweighing the color of skin, these historic wins will continue to grow and lessen the gap. Seeing as Black comedian women won so many awards at this year’s Emmys, this could be a growing trend in future award shows. 

With Oscar nominations out for 2024 and Brunson and Edebiri winning at the Emmys, we may see more Black women winning at the Oscars. We are already seeing this with Danielle Brooks and Da’vine Joy Rnadolph being nominated for Best Supporting Actress! Abbott Elementary has received historic wins since 2023, and it’s continued to make history this year as well. With the rise in Black female talent receiving both nominations and wins,  it is safe to say the industry is finally turning in their favor.  

Want to read more about Black talent making waves in the film & TV industry? Read our piece about Black characters in fantasy media here!